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Super Bowl 2015: Ho-Hum. The Spots are Different but the Formula’s the Same

Super Bowl 2015: Ho-Hum. The Spots are Different but the Formula’s the Same

Relevant, engaging, and interactive, Ron Tite exceeds expectations each and every time he takes the stage. Named one of the “Top 10 Creative Canadians” by Marketing magazine, the award-winning advertising writer, chief executive officer, and creative director addresses a variety of topics surrounding branding, corporate strategy, creativity and social media. Boasting training from Second City, Ron’s presentations are not only information-packed, they’re also infused with his unique humour–guaranteed to have you laughing while you learn. Below, Ron takes a look at yesterday’s Super Bowl advertising…warning: he’s not impressed, and watch him weigh in on the ads in a recent interview:

Winners? Losers? Suck? Don’t suck? Whatever. This year’s spots all felt really familiar. Maybe it’s because we have perfected what works and what doesn’t but the advertisers and their agencies seem to have followed tried and true formulas for this year’s spots.  Here are some themes.

The insignificant celebrity endorsement.
With appearances by Lindsay Lohan, Pete Rose, Kim Kardashian, Gilbert Gottfried, Brett Favre, and others, this year’s crop of celebrity endorsers seemed less “celebrity” and more “Celebrity Apprentice cast-offs”. Kardashian’s delivery was horrible, Lohan sounded like a bar maid who smoked for 60 years, and Pete Rose’s self-deprecating Hall joke was depressing as hell. Sarah Silverman is a personal favourite but on this night, even she and pal Chelsea Handler didn’t quite have the magic.

Thankfully, Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel showed up with class and sophistication and delivered one of the best spots of the night.

The kick to the balls.
Hey, it’s tough to cut through the noise of the Super Bowl. To win, some advertisers just get lazy and try to cross lines that make viewers emotionally or physically uncomfortable to grab attention and create memorability. In real life, “Oh, no they didn’t….” can make you squirm. Sadly, in advertising it can make you pay attention.

This year, lines were definitely crossed. Carl’s Jr. proudly displayed gratuitous nudity (almost), Snoop Dog dropped F-bombs, Burritos were hurled at people’s heads, and while there wasn’t a kick to the groin, there was a Red Flag to the groin thanks to Pizza Hut. As viewers, we should have thrown a red flag at the spot. It deserved a minimum of a 10 yard penalty. Overall, I still felt bruised from the experience.

GoDaddy was so far over the line with selling puppies on the Internet that it had to give in to animal rights activists before it even aired. What was aired was a spot clearly thrown together at the last minute. I wonder if the domain is taken?

Nationwide crossed the line that I didn’t think anyone would cross in a super bowl game.  Raising awareness of domestic violence is one thing (and they did it very effectively) but Nationwide produced the creepiest ad of the night with a little child who doesn’t get to experience all life has to offer because, wait for it, he’s dead. Thanks for that Nationwide. How did this get past the receptionist let alone the CMO?

Soft and sexy.
You know what’s really attractive in a male (according to advertisers)? Well, it’s not the cowboy-hat wearing testosterone Bud-Men of yesteryear. It’s a dad. A responsible dad who loves his kids, wears khakis, washes with Dove, and takes them on adventures in a new bold Toyota Camry. Or a Nissan, depending on which spot you saw. All in all,  there’s nothing wrong redefining what it means to be a man. But if you’re not the only brand in your category talking about it, perhaps it’s time to move on. If you can’t own it, sell it.

Hear Ye! Hear ye!
Last year’s “God made a farmer” spot was so popular that Carnival Cruise Lines did it again only this time it was about the sea and it was JFK speaking from behind the microphone. Toyota brought back a Muhammed Ali speech but sadly, it wasn’t float like a butterfly and sting like a bee and it didn’t really complement the visuals. Where was MLK when you needed him?

Been there. Done that.
Instead of launching something new, there were brands that recycled proven work or extended existing campaigns leaving the viewer with a justified deja vu feeling all night long. Always re-cut a spot that’s been around for months. Bud and Bud Light both did what they did last year. Carl’s Jr. brought back the sex appeal, brought back Shatner, and Snickers did another “You’re not you when you’re hungry” spot (and it was brilliant).

Here’s a final, detailed review:

Always: Like a Girl

Great insight and simple execution. Who doesn’t love an ad that stands for something inspiring? I don’t care that this launched months ago. This was a spot that 100 million people needed to see.

Avocados: First Draft Ever 

Somewhere the Iranian pomegranate marketing association is saying, “WTF?.” Who knew Mexican avocados were better than the avocados from uhh.. those other places I get them from? Oh well. At least it was fun.

BMW i3: Newfangled Idea

What do you get when you combine real retro footage, naturally funny dialogue, celebrities who can laugh at themselves, a simple execution, and a car that is uniquely different than anything else out there? Call Allison. She’ll tell you it’s the best spot of the game.

Bud Light: Real Life Pacman

This was really really fun for the guy doing it but not so fun for the 100 million people who were forced to watch him do it. When will the stunt-vertising end?

Budweiser: Brewed the Hard Way

When you’ve blown your budget on dogs and Pacman, you do this.

Budweiser: Lost Dog

The first time I saw My Girl, I absolutely bawled. The second time I saw it, I got misty. The third time, I changed the channel. Let’s hope they bring us to tears with an original idea next year. Doesn’t Telus have an extra animal they could throw Bud’s way?

Carl’s Jr.: Charlotte McKinney All-Natural

The progressive male in me hates this because of the blatant use of sex to sell a burger. The comedian in me hates it because it’s a direct rip of that scene from Austin Powers.

Regardless, didn’t Carl Sr. teach his son about lazy marketing?

Carnival: Come Back to the Sea. 

God made a farmer. Then the next year, he sent him on a cruise so he could do Aquafit and enjoy the all you can eat buffet.

Chevy: Wifi

Great intro. Great gag. And a couple of smart and witty supers. It’s that easy people. And Pete Rose didn’t even have to be involved.

Coca Cola: Make It Happy

Lovely. Beautiful. Timely. Relevant. And even if you’re not a troll, it still makes you think. Thanks Coke. Unlike most of the brands on this list, you showed your soul.

Discover: Surprise“Hey, can we just have two people awkwardly talking with dialogue filled with the bullets from the creative brief?”“Sure. We’ll throw in a goat and some balloons and call it a day.”

Dodge: Wisdom

The seniors were fun but I would have preferred that they not deliver their centuries-in-the-making advice through tired cliches.

Dove Men + Care: Real Strength

This is how you do a Dad spot. (Tiny irritant: The announcer voice.)

Esurance: Sort of Your Mom. 

Lindsay Lohan sounded like a 67 year old bar maid who’s been smoking since she was 8. That being said, her performance was better than I expected. The kids were cute, too.

Esurance: Say My Name. Let me start with this: I LOVED Breaking Bad. It’s one of my all time favourite shows and Bryan Cranston is brilliant.I just wish they (and he) hadn’t done this. Admittedly, I’m probably alone on this.

Fiat: Blue Pill

Pretty fun in a juvenile Italian way. Did Fiat get co-op funding from Viagra? If this offended you, take a pill.

GoDaddy: Working

What do you do when you’re forced to pull the spot you spent 6 months writing, testing, shooting and cutting a week before the Super Bowl? You lock off the camera, remove any on-camera dialogue, and throw together this uninspired salute to business owners. Pssst… I own a business and I was watching the game.

Jeep: Beautiful Land

The vehicle may be rugged but this spot was anything but. Lovely. Nice choice in the track, too.

Jublia: Tackle it. 

Ad professionals get to create one Super Bowl spot in their entire career, if they’re really, really lucky. Somewhere, a creative team is cursing that this was their opportunity.

Kia Sorento: The Perfect Getaway with Pierce Brosnan

Remember that dialogue from last year’s Samsung spot? This was kinda like that only it wasn’t funny.

Lexus: Make Some Noise

The noise Lexus heard was people saying, “This was a waste of money.”

Loctite Glue: Positive Feelings

Ha! I didn’t expect THAT. Memorable in more ways than one.

McDonalds: Pay with Lovin’

I’m sure it was really fun to get a free Big Mac for just the cost of a dance. But like the Pacman spot, just because it’s fun to do doesn’t mean it’s fun to watch.

Mercedes-Benz: Fable

I loved this spot. There were a ton of nice little moments including the hare selfie (complete with the frog’s photobomb), the Spanish snail, “Plot Twist!”, and more. Nice attention to detail.

Mophie: All-Powerless

Great idea. Unbelievable execution. Yup, it’s spots like this that try to live up to Apple’s “1984″. We may be talking about this spot in 30 years, too. I just don’t think we’ll be talking about Mophie.

Nationwide. Make Safe HappenWhoa. Who saw that coming? Not me. I don’t have children and thanks to this, I don’t think I will. One question: Was this the spot that invisible Mindy Kaling teased? If so, why? Was Haley Joel Osment and his “I see dead people” booked?
Nissan: With DadThis was nice. I just didn’t need to see it for 90 seconds. Did they have to arm wrestle the other Dad spots to see who got to use “Cats in the Cradle”?

No More: PSAI’m not sure this played well in the many bars and Super Bowl parties hosting the game but who cares? It’ll raise awareness of this important issue. I’m just not sure people will be motivated to literally “pledge” their support.

Northrop Grumman: HangarHey, NG. You build military aircraft. You have no business advertising. Especially if it sucks. Send Putin an email and save what’s left on a wrap party.

Pizza Hut: Crust Flavor Challenge with Rex Ryan and Tony Romo

Even a red flag to the groin couldn’t save this spot. Know a Guy. 

I liked the script. Too bad they had Captain Kirk deliver it. But that’s not Shatner’s fault. If you can’t cast the spot, write for the talent you have.

Skittles: Settle it. 

It is settled. Skittles knows how to inject its quirky personality in everything they do. If there’s one thing this group of commercials needed, it was the Skittles rainbow.

Snickers: Brady Brunch

I coughed up whatever game snack I was ingesting when I saw the original Snickers Betty White spot. This creative platform always had legs, I just wasn’t as thrilled with the subsequent executions as I was with the first. That changed with this spot. Snickers is back. And they’re funny as hell. Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!

Sprint: Super Apology

After seeing the trailer, I was looking forward to this spot. Can you say, “teaser let-down?”

Squarespace: Dreaming with Jeff. 

I haven’t decided whether I love it or hate it. WTF?

T-Mobile : Wifi Calling

Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Handler had their moments. But like a Saturday Night game show sketch, it fizzled as the clock ran out. So much promise. So little satisfaction.

T-Mobile: Kim Kardashian

If Kim could act, this could have been saved. But she can’t. All we’re left with is a joke about someone who doesn’t really get the joke. Where was Kanye’s interruptive “Ima let you finish” when we needed it?

T-Mobile: Data VultureInstead of paying Kim, Sarah, and Chelsea, they should have just put the vulture in another spot. At least he’s only triple scale.

Toyota: How Great Am I?

The visuals (and the individual in them) are inspiring and the Ali V/O is inspiring. Still, I’m left thinking, “what does this have to do with the bold, new Camry”? Not quite good enough.

Toyota: My Bold DadI thought the script was a bit clumsy but having the daughter go off to military service was a nice twist and a refresh on the stereotypes.

TurboTax: Big Game Commercial
Now these Patriots knew what was important. Who knew filing your taxes could be so funny? Great spot.

WeatherTech: America at Work. When you don’t have an idea, just beat your chest, wave Old Glory, and squeeze the word “America” in where you can. American workers, American factory, American America. Did the Tea Party commission this spot?

Weight Watchers: All You Can EatRemember Ogilvy’s “Onslaught” for Dove? Change the women to food and you have this spot. On the bright side, it’s better than I thought it would be. It’s that EasyI can’t think of what’s worse for Lloyd: Working for Ari Gold or working for Brett Favre. Oh well, at least I know WordPress isn’t the only thing out there.

Ron Tite/February, 2015